UNION — Budding soccer players are going to get an opportunity to play on a turf field come the end of May thanks to an upgrade at Volunteer Park that was much needed.
If you happen to pass by Volunteer Field and notice the area buzzing with construction activity, it is just a sign that there is more to a turf field than just unrolling an artificial carpet of grass that never needs watering or mowing.
With more than 800 township children playing soccer at Volunteer Field, it has taken quite a beating over the last ten years. But while parents, supporters and pint size soccer players have continued to ask township officials to refurbish or consider a turf field in recent years, elected officials were initially wary.
For one, the cost of such a project was a concern, especially given the reduction of state aid, the recession and the impact on taxpayers. But last year the governing body decided that it was time to investigate what the actual financial burden would be compared to continued heavy use of the field. Elected officials also wanted to know if there was any grants available to defray the cost.
Township Administrator Ron Manzella was charged with the task.
“I started looking into it and found there was a $100,000 grant from the National Soccer Foundation,” he said, adding that while a turf field would cost the township $350,000, getting the grant would take a major bite out of the overall cost. The governing body agreed. However, putting a turf field in is not an easy task. In fact, Manzella said it is a deceptive process that required digging the entire field down four to six feet in order to lay a bed of stone.
“Some people think it’s easy to convert a grass field to turf, but you are changing it to an impervious surface and that involves ensuring there is adequate drainage,” the administrator said. That also meant a retaining wall had to be constructed to ensure the pitch of the field was right so any build up of water would drain off properly towards the river basin.
“This is for the children of Union,” Manzella said, explaining that over the years this sport has become very popular with township youth, opposed to years ago when football and baseball were at the top of the list.
“We are trying to keep pace with changing times and the obvious fast growing participation in soccer by township youth,” the township administrator said.
“We want to make sure we have the proper playing field, not one that is worn down and constantly in need of work,” Manzella said, mentioning that the governing body felt the same way.
“They completely supported renovating the deteriorating field to turf,” he added, noting that while the cost was high, the fact so many hundreds of children will get an opportunity to play soccer on a professional turf field was an important factor.